Jewellery and men in Tudor and Jacobean England

Project team

Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory 


  • Professor Evelyn Welch, Queen Mary,
    University of London

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

An Arts and Humanities Research Council
Collaborative Doctoral Award

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From the accession of Henry VIII in 1509 until the death of James I in 1625 men wore just as much jewellery as their female counterparts. Yet jewellery is often viewed as a feminine preoccupation. In this period, male ownership of jewels was about much more than just adorning the body. Jewellery had the power to reflect magnificence, lineage and wealth, as well as sustain social bonds and networks of exchange.

This project investigates the significance of the jewels worn, owned and circulated by men in the sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, in order to provide a contextual understanding of objects often considered as trifles of adornment.

In this period (1509-1625) both clothing and jewellery were used as markers of an individual’s social, moral and professional status in a community. While there has been much work done in recent years on establishing dress history as an academic discipline, studies on jewellery have tended to adopt a more chronological or stylistic approach. This project is part of a more general movement towards providing a social context for these objects.

Gold and enamelled hat ornament for men, 1530-40

Gold and enamelled hat ornament
for men, 1530-40

Project aims and output

This project aims to bridge the gap between traditional art history scholarship and archaeological work to provide a strong social and historical context for jewellery and men in Tudor and Jacobean England.

At its core is the early-modern European jewellery collection in the department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory. By combining object analysis with evidence from documentary, literary, archival and visual sources, this project will provide a new context for these holdings. Finds continually reported through the 1996 Treasure Act will also be integrated to demonstrate the importance of jewellery for men across all social levels.


In 2010, a group of early-career silversmiths were invited to take inspiration from the British Museum's Renaissance jewels to create modern pieces considering the attributes and preoccupations of a twenty-first century man.

The objects created by the silversmiths were on display as part of Inspired: contemporary views of Renaissance jewellery in Gallery 46 from 11 November 2011 until 30 January 2012.

More about the display 

Study day

In January 2012 a study day for invited participants was held at the British Museum on the subject of jewellery in the early modern period.

The study day was kindly sponsored by the Design History Society and the Society for Renaissance Studies.

More about the study day